VKC (TN IDDRC/UCEDD/LEND)'s Verity Rodrigue Rodrigues to serve on National Mental Health Advisory Board

February 25, 2019

Verity Rodrigues, M.S., Ph.D., educational consultant and instructor in Pediatrics at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center's  (TN IDDRC/UCEDD/LEND) reatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (VKC TRIAD), has been selected to participate on the advisory board for the National Training Center on Mental Health and Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (MHIDD).

The project is funded by a 3-year federal grant awarded to the University of Kentucky Institute for Human Development, in collaboration with the University of Alaska Anchorage and Utah State University. The purpose is to establish a national training center that will build workforce and community capacity to support individuals with mental illness and intellectual/developmental disabilities.

"We know that the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may increase the risk for co-occurring mental health concerns," said Pablo Juarez, M.Ed., BCBA, senior associate in Pediatrics, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and Special Education, and director of TRIAD. "We also know resources and supports are limited in this area. Dr. Rodrigues has been leading the development and implementation of programming at TRIAD to address the needs of individuals who have co-occurring mental health concerns, and we are thrilled that she will have an opportunity to share her insights and to learn from others on this national board."

In 2018, Rodrigues facilitated a mental health-focused workshop for school-based providers that was sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education. She and her colleagues provided information to increase the educators' understanding of how ASD and common mental health concerns impact student learning, and shared evidence-based coping strategies that educators can use to support emotional regulation in their students.

TRIAD also has developed an Online Mental Health Toolkit for educators, which includes condensed information from the workshop. Accessible through vkclearning.org, it is a self-guided, modular toolkit intended for educators working with students with ASD, who are also at risk for or experiencing co-occurring mental health challenges.

"Mental health is something I have been passionate about for some time," said Rodrigues. "It often goes unaddressed, especially for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Mental health concerns often are overshadowed by the concerns of the disability, and not addressing mental health in an individual can have a devastating impact on his or her quality of life. These needs are so important, and I was excited to learn about this national training center to develop resources and supports that address the needs of people with IDD and mental health concerns. I can't wait to get started, to collaborate with people from across the country, and to move forward with what we are able to do at TRIAD in this area."

To learn more about TRIAD, visit https://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/vkc/triad/home/.